Open Forum

Where you can't be off-topic because there IS no topic.

The floor is yours.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Teve says:
  2. Teve says:
  3. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Re: Inside…. bad link

  4. Paine says:

    So I’m reading Cultural Diversity in Organizations by Taylor Cox and came across this nugget:

    “Persons who are high in authoritarian personality and low in moral development tend to be less tolerant toward, and hold less favorable attitudes toward, members of out-groups, especially minority group members.”

    Fits Trump supporters to a, well, T.

  5. Teve says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: I had a couple problems this morning with links, with one of my comments disappearing entirely.

    Inside a Texas Building Where the Government Is Holding Immigrant Children

    ETA: OtB software seems to have a problem with

  6. Teve says:

    I was listening to the latest Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast and Steven Novella mentions in a segment about nuclear power and climate change that he thinks there’s probly a less-than-50% chance that we take serious steps to avoid climate change. I agree with that. In fact that’s my best candidate for the solution to the Fermi Paradox–beings that arose by evolution are too short-sighted and greedy to handle a slow-moving collective catastrophe.

  7. Teve says:

    the onion:

    Tips For Staying Civil While Debating Child Prisons
    Recent incidents of Trump officials being confronted in public for their role in the administration’s separation and imprisonment of immigrant families have driven renewed concern about the lack of civility in U.S. politics. The Onion presents tips for staying civil in a debate about child prisons.

    Avoid unkind generalizations like equating the jailing of ethnic minorities with some malevolent form of fascism.

    Consider that we all have different perspectives stemming from things like age, ethnicity, or level of racism.

    Recall that violently rejecting a tyrannical government goes against everything our forefathers believed in.

    Find common ground by recognizing that some kids are huge assholes.

    Make sure any protests are peaceful, silent, and completely out of sight of anyone who could actually affect government policy.

    Give your political opponents the benefit of the doubt by letting this play out for 20 years and seeing if it gets any better on its own.

    Realize that every pressing social issue is solved through civil discourse if you ignore virtually all of human history.

    Remind yourself that you’re just two people having a cocktail at the same D.C. party and that politics is a game to you.

    Avoid painting with a broad brush. Not everyone in favor of zero-tolerance immigration wants to see children in cages—it’s more likely that they just don’t care.

  8. Teve says:
  9. Paine says:


    “…modeled on a similar ban put in place several months ago by” I’m a member there. Good for Ravelry.

  10. Teve says:

    Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

    The Trump administration has stopped promoting government-funded research into how higher temperatures can damage crops and pose health risks.

    By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH 06/23/2019 05:04 PM EDT Updated 06/23/2019 10:37 PM EDT
    The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

    The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.

    All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

  11. Kathy says:


    You’ve been warned.

    Early on in the pilot episode, Michael explains the points system and says only the very top people in the ranking get into The Good Place. I wondered how anyone at all got in.

    Later, as Michael fails to find a way into The Good Place, and the Judge condemns all our heroes to The Bad Place (except Eleanor), I wondered again how anyone at all gets in.

    So I decided no one really can get into The Good Place. This was reinforced when Sean tells Michael he’ll get everyone, including St. Doug (no relation).

    And the closing eps of season 3 bore me out.

    Given how fluid the show is with story lines, setting, and even characters, I think getting one thing right was no small feat 🙂

    It’s also really odd to think that people like Edward Jenner, Jonas Salk, and Norman Borlaug, who together literally saved billions of lives, are being tortured in The Bad Place.

    BTW, did anyone notice that near the end of every season there is like a big reset of the whole season?

    Season 1 we find it’s not really The Good Place.
    Season 2 we find there’s no way into The Good Place from The Bad Place
    season 3 we find the whole idea of keeping the gang from dying so they can earn their way into The Good Place won’t work at all.

    So in season 4 either the experiment with the four non-random people should also be pointless, or the show can go against type and finally open up The Good Place for more people.

    Of course, I wouldn’t put it past them, given the many twists in the plot, to end with making the whole thing something completely different, like Michael was being tested and failed to make the cut for a Bad Place demon, or it was all a simulation (or parts of the show were), or something really out of left field.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    (For the show “The Good Place” which you really don’t want spoiled if you are going to watch it)
    I look at the three seasons of the show a little differently.
    – In the first season we watch Eleanor grow from totally amoral and somewhat immoral, to someone who is aware of ethics and realizes they can benefit her
    – In the second season we watch as she actually embraces the ethics and we also become aware of the journeys the others are on. Especially Michael, who actually started to care about others for the first time in his very long life.
    – In the third season we watch as the entire group seeks to actually live the ethics they have embraced. At first, this is so they can earn their way into heaven according to the rules laid out be the judge. But once they remember the truth they realize they can never make it, but they decide to live their lives according to those ethics anyway and altruistically help others, with no chance of reward for themselves.

    So if you set aside the intricate plots and the small reveals heaping up until they topple over to give a big reveal at the end of each season, the show is actually a pretty straightforward story of growth.

    To me, the most satisfying end in the fourth season would be a Lost-like one: It turns out the afterlife was all about molding them to become the “right fit” for the Good Place, whatever that might be. The reason they are thrown together is that humans need each other in order to advance. The show runner and writers could do a lot with that basic structure.

    Of course, considering my batting average, it will likely turn out to be nothing like that 😉

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @Teve: Perhaps this is part of the answer to the question “How do normal rational people make the point that no, this is not just politics as usual, this is something different and much more evil?”

    As noted in the linked article, public shame is a powerful weapon. What Trumpists call “political correctness” is really just any attempt to call them on their shameful beliefs and behaviors. No wonder they hate it so much.

  14. DrDaveT says:


    In fact that’s my best candidate for the solution to the Fermi Paradox–beings that arose by evolution are too short-sighted and greedy to handle a slow-moving collective catastrophe.

    A fair bit of science fiction postulates a few “crisis points” that species must get past in order to make it out into space. During the Cold War, it was mostly about nuclear weapons. Since then, environmental disaster has been a much more popular topic. Can you get yourself off the planet before the Tragedy of the Commons drags you back?

    It occurs to me that Niven and Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye is another example, but with Malthusian population explosion (and resulting war) in place of resource exhaustion or pollution .

  15. Tyrell says:

    Last night we were treated to one of the most exciting and nerve wracking events. On live television, Nik and Lijana Wallenda walked the high wire across Times Square. Quite a few times I had to look away I was so nervous. But they made it. Superior training, ability, and focus.

  16. Kathy says:



    I look at the three seasons of the show a little differently.

    That’s a fair interpretation, but only because that’s exactly what happens 😉

    Seriously, the characterization more or less proceeds in a straight line, but the plot has a more Jeremy Bearimy structure. It doubles back, resets, reboots, races ahead, and it’s never Tuesday .

    I really wonder whether there is an outline of all four seasons, as Babylon 5 had, or whether the producers need to figure out what to do each season.

  17. Kathy says:


    It occurs to me that Niven and Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye is another example, but with Malthusian population explosion (and resulting war) in place of resource exhaustion or pollution .

    But they manage to leave their solar system and travel to another star. The rest is a big spoiler. Given a few more cycles, though, they might have succeeded eventually.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Michael Schur (The Good Place, Brooklyn 99) is my personal god when it comes to writing TV comedy, him and Phoebe Waller Bridge for Derry Girls. Haven’t watched Fleabag yet. I tend to admire most the writers who can do what I can’t, or do what I can but better. The first episode of Derry Girls is the most efficient character work I have ever seen anywhere – in a half hour you know at least 10 characters very well. I suppose it’s what baseball fans feel seeing a triple play – you know it can be done in theory, but you sure don’t see it often.

  19. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The first episode of Derry Girls is the most efficient character work I have ever seen anywhere –

    Is it any good plotwise? I’m more of a plot-driven reader/viewer. Granted in a comedy plot can be secondary or even unnecessary, but the best comedies incorporate the plot, even an absurd one (see Futurama), into the comedy. That’s why Babylon 5 blew me away: the plot developed in a four year arc (the fifth season is so superfluous, though it was a nice attempt at carrying the story past the ending in historical fashion; ie assuming there can be no ending).

    BTW, not related, but if anyone is interested in a decent afterlife movie, I recommend an early 90s comedy called “Defending Your Life,” with Meryl Streep, Albert Brooks, and Rip Torn. The title refers to a kind of trial, or inquiry, regarding decedent’s most recent life, and the determination whether the decedent “moves on” (whatever that means), or goes back to Earth to be reincarnated and try again.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    Yet another Democratic hoping-to-be-nominee who doesn’t know the Constitution.

    Can we first run a simple sorting test on all people running, asking each one “do you want to pass term limits for Congressmen?” and immediately throwing out anyone who says “yes”?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    I’d say she’s a bit less amazing at plotting, but you get to the five gallons of crap in a one gallon bucket problem. You can only do so much in a given time/space frame. This irritates me to no end when I get amateur reviewers loving my characters and complaining that it’s a bit slow at the beginning – yes, it is, because not everything can happen simultaneously. You love the characters because I took space to build them, space that cannot be devoted to plot. One of the reasons sci fi characters tend to be paper thin is that there’s so much world-building exposition to handle. Ditto fantasy. Setting, world-building, plot, character – something gets priority and something else doesn’t.

    In fact, this is what’s stymied me on a long-considered project called Guns and Dragons. I wanted to do colliding universes, one ours, one a fantasy environment, alternating chapters. Unfortunately that means one environment where I can short-hand familiar reference points, and another requiring massive world-building. Events in universe A can move along apace, events in universe B not so much. It’s like trying to mesh two entirely different gears.

  22. MarkedMan says:


    I really wonder whether there is an outline of all four seasons

    I think I saw an interview with Michael Schur where he said that it wasn’t mapped out in detail but he knew how he would take it to 4 or 5 seasons

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    One of the reasons sci fi characters tend to be paper thin is that there’s so much world-building exposition to handle.

    This is one thing I think Pohl does very well. I think he does it by focusing on the characters but revealing enough of their context to make you think you want to hear a lot more about that.

  24. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Phoebe Waller-Bridge has nothing to do with Derry Girls — Fleabag and Killing Eve are hers, along with an undistinguished sitcom called “Crashing” you can see on Netflix, which just goes to show a talent in the rough beginning to find itself.

    Don’t know if you’ve seen Sex Education yet, but it also has a marvelous sense of characters, starting out with what look like stereotypes and then constantly deepening them as the show goes on.

    Also worth your time, if only for the astonishing plotting, the German series Dark, which you can find on Netflix…

  25. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I wanted to do colliding universes, one ours, one a fantasy environment, alternating chapters.

    Pro tip: do NOT do this the way Piers Anthony did in Blue Adept.

    (Then again, it kind of goes without saying that no author should ever do anything the way Piers Anthony does…)

  26. Kathy says:


    Five seasons would be amazing. I mentioned 4 because a brief item I read said season 4 will be the last.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    BTW, did anyone notice that near the end of every season there is like a big reset of the whole season?

    Yeah. Beyond the first season–which was a well placed ironic twist–it’s called “jumping the shark.”

    Still, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Based on what I was reading somewhere, season 4 is the end. In other news, Hulu has ordered a new season of Veronica Mars, so I may be able to get my Kristen Bell fix without slogging through another season of The Good Place.

  28. DrDaveT says:

    So, recent comments about this and that science fiction novel got me to thinking about a recurring SF trope: human exceptionalism. (I’ll set aside for another day the question of how much that is driven by American exceptionalism on the part of the authors…)

    Version 1: Throughout the galaxy, races join the galactic polity by being ‘uplifted’ by some older, wiser race. This is not always a benevolent act. But! Then they run into the humans, who seem to have evolved on their own with no help. Those pesky humans!

    David Brin, Sundiver / Startide Rising / The Uplift War et seq.
    Gordon Dickson, Wolfling

    Version 2: Humans are smarter/cleverer/wilier/more resourceful than the aliens they run up against.
    Christopher Anvil, Pandora’s Planet
    Keith Laumer, “Retief” stories
    Eric Frank Russell, Wasp
    Charles V. de Vet, “Second Game”
    Fred Saberhagen, “Berserker” stories

    Version 3: Humans are fiercer than other races
    Poul Anderson, The High Crusade
    Alan Dean Foster, A Call to Arms / The False Mirror / The Spoils of War

    Other examples?

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Yep. 4 will be the last. The interview I read was just after season 1

  30. Teve says:

    Bill O’Reilly
    Slavery reparations is a far-left favorite because it does a number of things.

    It reinforces the radical belief that the United States was founded by racist white men who installed a system whereby white guys would run everything and blacks, women and others would be exploited.
    2:55 PM · Jun 24, 2019 · Twitter Web Client

    Bill O’Reilly
    Replying to
    It also suggests that personal responsibility does not count when the legacy of slavery dropped a curtain of oppression on the black race and there is no recovering from that. The radical left says our society remains unjust to this day, forget personal responsibility.

  31. Kathy says:


    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Yeah. Beyond the first season–which was a well placed ironic twist–it’s called “jumping the shark.”

    Long, long ago, there was a Twilight Zone episode (spoilers follow) about a gangster who seems to have reached heaven after he dies. But things are too perfect, and boring, so you realize he is in Hell. Since then, in any afterlife story one has to assume that what seems heaven may be the other place(*).

    That was my operating assumption for The Good Place, but both Michael and Janet seemed so honestly and naively good, that I had to dismiss the assumption. Until a few things here and there failed to add up.

    You know what convinced me, and just in time, too? When Eleanor misses the deadline by mere seconds, and Sean doesn’t bend even a millimeter.

    Jumping the shark has been misinterpreted. It means, for some reason (yes, I never saw Happy Days), that an ep is so good no other episode following it can possibly match it. I suppose there’s a “therefore, relatively speaking it’s all downhill from here on out” clause implied.

    So, I’d have enjoyed watching the Judge try to live on Earth, rather than have a short, frenetic, description about it. But other than that the plot’s been moving along at a decent pace, and in a logical progression.

    I know not everyone will like it, or will keep liking it after a particular development.

    (*) Futurama did a satire of this in part of one scene of a fictional show called “The Scary Door.” A guy sitting at a slot machine pulls and wins, and says “A casino where I win? I must be in Heaven!” He pulls again and wins again, and says “A casino where I always win? I must be in Hell!”

  32. Guarneri says:

    Guessing Game:

    How many barrels of free beer will be promised in the first two Dem debates. I’m thinking 100,000.

    All paid for, of course they will say, by Interbrew……………and all the little microbreweries put out of business. Its the Democrat way…………………….

  33. Kathy says:


    Humans are more peaceful?

    In one story by Asimov, called “The Gentle Vultures,” anthropoid aliens are waiting, and waiting, and waiting for humans to blow themselves up in a nuclear conflagration, so they can swoop down and help them in exchange for life-long tribute. But after decades and decades the damn humans refuse to set the world in radioactive fire.

  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I thought “Jumping the Shark” meant that a particular episode revealed a show had reached a point where it had run out of good ideas and starting slapping anything they could think of into a script. The Happy Days episode were Fonzi literally jumps the shark (while water skiing, while wearing his motorcycle jacket) is definitely not considered the high point.

    I once heard or read an interview with The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, where he claimed that the idea indirectly came from his mother, who kept telling him he should tell his bosses that he could waterski and they could maybe put it in the show. It turns out he could really waterski, with spinning around, ramp jumping and the whole works. This just gives further proof to the best writing advice I ever hear: (paraphrased from Joseph Heller) Don’t write what you know, because it always comes off awkward. Find something you know nothing about and learn about it and then write about that.

  35. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    It reinforces the radical belief that the United States was founded by racist white men who installed a system whereby white guys would run everything and blacks, women and others would be exploited.

    Which is inaccurate in what sense, Bill?

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: Free beer has no appeal to me. Strictly a hard liquor drinker.

    If free beer appeals to you, on the other hand, knock yourself out. (And you can take that literally if you wish.)

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I thought “Jumping the Shark” meant that a particular episode revealed a show had reached a point where it had run out of good ideas and starting slapping anything they could think of into a script.”

    That’s the sense of “Jumping the Shark” to which I was referring. Just to be clear.

  38. michael reynolds says:

    You’re right, Lisa McGee. I plead weariness. We’re in mid-move and there’s not a lot of sleep to be had.

  39. gVOR08 says:

    I was going to put this under Dr. Taylor’s Trumpian Ignorance post, but I left it too long and it may get more interest here. Via Balloon Juice and New Republic, David Roth has the best piece I’ve seen on why conventional political analysis is irrelevant to Trump. It’s long, but well worth a read both for insight and entertainment.

    Trump never declined an opportunity to fish a quarter out of the toilet when the situation presented itself. That reflexive and amoral avarice is one of the ignoble truths of Trump, but it’s subsidiary to the most important and elemental fact about the man, which is that he never does or says anything new.

    At this stage in his sublimely unexamined life and increasingly evident cognitive decline, Trump isn’t really capable of very compelling misdirections or even passably convincing falsehoods. He digresses because he loses the plot, and he lies when the truth wouldn’t look good on him; he distracts himself and tells himself lies because it is the only way to square what is actually happening with what he would prefer to be happening.

    The spectacle of expert analysts and thought leaders parsing the actions of a man with no expertise or capacity for analysis is the purest acid satire—but less because of how badly that expert analysis has failed than because of how sincerely misplaced it is. Trump represents an extraordinary challenge to political media precisely because there is nothing here to parse, no hidden meanings or tactical elisions or slow-rolled strategic campaign. Mainstream political media and Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party conceive of politics as chess, a matter of feints and sacrifices and moves made so as to open the way for other moves. There’s an element of romance to this vision, which is a crucial tenet in a certain type of big-D Democratic thought and also something like the reason why anyone would need to employ a political analyst. But Trump is not playing chess. The man is playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.

    He’s going to figure it all out and very strongly fix it—Take Over and Make Everything Better, just as Mitchell Schultz dreamed it—but his television won’t tell him how. It keeps saying that it will, but then it just tells him about something else to worry about and some other person who is trying to bring him down and stop him from getting his due. He gets up in front of his crowds to tell them what he’s done and what he will do and draws a huge seething blank. And then he opens his mouth and yesterday’s television comes out, and they hoot and cheer because they know that what he’s saying is true, because they’d heard the same thing the other day. They’d found it upsetting and the man up there found it upsetting, too. He says they’re going to be looking into it.

  40. Teve says:
  41. Mister Bluster says:

    Independence Hall Philadelphia Pennsylvania
    Saturday June 23, 1787

    Mr. MADISON renewed his motion yesterday made & waved to render the members of the 1st. branch “ineligible during their term of service, & for one year after- to such offices only as should be established, or the emoluments thereof, augmented by the Legislature of the U. States during the time of their being members.” He supposed that the unnecessary creation of offices, and increase of salaries, were the evils most experienced, & that if the door was shut agst. them: it might properly be left open for the appointt. of members to other offices as an encouragemt. to the Legislative service.
    Mr. Alex: MARTIN seconded the motion.
    Mr. BUTLER. The amendt. does not go far eno’ & wd. be easily evaded
    Mr. RUTLIDGE, was for preserving the Legislature as pure as possible, by shutting the door against appointments of its own members to offices, which was one source of its corruption.
    Mr. MASON. The motion of my colleague is but a partial remedy for the evil. He appealed to him as a witness of the shameful partiality of the Legislature of Virginia to its own members. He enlarged on the abuses & corruption in the British Parliament, connected with the appointment of its members. He cd. not suppose that a sufficient number of Citizens could not be found who would be ready, without the inducement of eligibility to offices, to undertake the Legislative service. Genius & virtue it may be said, ought to be encouraged. Genius, for aught he knew, might, but that virtue should be encouraged by such a species of venality, was an idea, that at least had the merit of being new.
    Mr. KING remarked that we were refining too much in this business; and that the idea of preventing intrigue and solicitation of offices was chimerical. You say that no member shall himself be eligible to any office. Will this restrain him from from availing himself of the same means which would gain appointments for himself, to gain them for his son, his brother, or any other object of his partiality. We were losing therefore the advantages on one side, without avoiding the evils on the other.
    Mr. WILSON supported the motion. The proper cure he said for corruption in the Legislature was to take from it the power of appointing to offices. One branch of corruption would indeed remain, that of creating unnecessary offices, or granting unnecessary salaries, and for that the amendment would be a proper remedy. He animadverted on the impropriety of stigmatizing with the name of venality the laudable ambition of rising into the honorable offices of the Government; an ambition most likely to be felt in the early & most incorrupt period of life, & which all wise & free Govts. had deemed it sound policy, to cherish, not to check. The members of the Legislature have perhaps the hardest & least profitable task of any who engage in the service of the state. Ought this merit to be made a disqualification?
    Mr. SHERMAN, observed that the motion did not go far enough. It might be evaded by the creation of a new office, the translation to it of a person from another office, and the appointment of a member of the Legislature to the latter. A new Embassy might be established to a new Court, & an ambassador taken from another, in order to create a vacancy for a favorite member. He admitted that inconveniencies lay on both sides. He hoped there wd. be sufficient inducements to the public service without resorting to the prospect of desireable offices, and on the whole was rather agst. the motion of Mr. Madison.
    Mr. GERRY thought there was great weight in the objection of Mr. Sherman. He added as another objection agst. admitting the eligibility of members in any case that it would produce intrigues of ambitious men for displacing proper officers, in order to create vacancies for themselves. In answer to Mr. King he observed that although members, if disqualified themselves might still intrigue & cabal for their sons, brothers &c, yet as their own interest would be dearer to them, than those of their nearest connections, it might be expected they would go greater lengths to promote it.

  42. Kathy says:



    You know, that makes a lot more sense. Yet I clearly remember reading about the expression soon after it began to be widely used, and it meant what I said it means. Perhaps I misremember.

    In any case, I don’t think The Good Place has declined in quality after three seasons. There. That’s perfectly clear.

    It may have revealed all the mysteries, though, so there’s nothing left to find out or see, except the actual Good Place (all we’ve seen of it is the mail room, really *).

    That happened in B5. There were lots of mysteries: why did the Minbari surrender when they were about to defeat Earth decisively, what do Vorlons look like, what do Vorlons want,what are those black ships that keep popping up, who are the Shadows, what happened to Babylon 4, etc. etc.

    We learn all the answers by the ending of Season 4, which is why I thought season 5 was superfluous.

    I can think of a lot of twists yet, but I doubt any of my theories are close to accurate.

    (*) It might be like Michael’s neighborhood in season 1, but well run and without any torture. I hope that’s not it.

  43. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I confess to using an outdated or misremembred definition.

    In any case, I don’t see The Good Place as having run out of good ideas.

    The Simpsons’, though… But, on the other hand, thirty years.

  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I try never to judge a show or a book, movie or song on what I would like it to be, but rather on what it is. I think it would be easy to bemoan the fact that seasons 2 and 3 didn’t close with the type of ending that season 1 did. Aside from the fact that it was impossible as a practical matter, it wasn’t really what the show was about in those next seasons. They made the episodes and the endings that made sense for what those seasons were actually about.

    HBO’s Westworld is another good example. If I was writing a show I would try to avoid doing twists for the sake of twists sake, and Westworld seems to take the opposite tack, with lots of information held from the audience for seemingly no reason. But I thought, “Why are they doing this?”, and I realized that they are trying to frame some fairly difficult ideas in a certain way and if they led with those ideas they would lose the ability to frame. I was taught that when giving a presentation with multiple things on a slide to only reveal one thing at a time. Human nature being what it is, if you show the whole slide people stop listening to you and start thinking about the other things on the slide. I may be giving the Westworld writers too much credit, but it allows me to get past something that a surface analysis may have found annoying.

    BTW, Westworld is brilliant. But whether it’s your thing or not, I highly, highly recommend Evan Puschak’s analysis of Anthony Hopkins in a Westworld scene. It’s not really spoilery, other than you find out that there is tension between two major characters, but that’s pretty much a given from the get-go.

    I normally don’t have much use for critics, but Puschak is that rare one who defines himself by what they love rather than what they hate, and whose incredible eye sees things that I might never see on my own.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    Interesting to see that not all Trump voters are idiots

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Never became a Simpson’s fan after the Tracy Uhlman Show. I suppose I’ve watched about 15 or 20 episodes over the years–mostly in Korea because it was what was on in English sometimes when I had the TV on. Point being that for me it hasn’t ever worn out.

    On the other side, I’ve been watching wrestling since I was a child and WWE seems very stale to me most of the time. The wrestling action itself is still entertaining because of the skills of the performers, but how the matches evolve is very stale. The bookings are the same for every match, it seems.

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: And forgive me, but my take is on these guys is “and if you hadn’t been negatively affected by not having it you would be now either.” Still, any convert is better than no convert, I guess.

  48. Kathy says:


    I try never to judge a show or a book, movie or song on what I would like it to be, but rather on what it is.

    That was Roger Ebert’s rule, which he broke on occasion. Something like review the movie as made, not as you would have made it. It’s easy to agree with that, but it’s also easy to see a premise and find developments the author overlooked or messed up. this is one reason we get fan theories.


    What I think The Good Place does well is subvert the viewer’s expectations. Season one started with the premise that Eleanor was wrongly admitted to heaven, and now must try to find a way to stay. Thus making the whole thing a con is an easy way to subvert that premise.

    Season 2, one would expect, would deal with Eleanor gradually piecing things together from the hint she left herself, until she exposed Michael again. That’s not what happens. Only then do we get the real premise of the show: how to get to the actual Good Place?

    And then there’s more subversion. The expectation is they’ll get in. But first Michael doesn’t actually know how, then the judge offers no way in (except for Eleanor, which still puzzles me a bit), then they try reliving, and now they are experimenting with four non-random people.

    My expectation is the experiment will fail, but only just, because Shawn has rigged the subjects. But I do’t think that’s how it will actually play out. There must be something else going on. Why do I think this? Consider Shawn knows no one gets to the Good Place anymore. If so, then he didn’t need to rig a door to Earth, because despite all of Michael’s and Janet’s efforts, the gang would not get there (except possibly Eleanor?). Yet he went to all the trouble, and taking the chance of pissing off the Judge.


    That’s what I want to know.

    BTW, if Eleanor is the special one who can bring Hell down, then the writers broke with convention by not letting her find out from the start or near the start, as is the traditional heroic narrative. If.

  49. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Hey, it just means there’s one more really excellent writer out there to follow…

  50. wr says:

    @Kathy: “We learn all the answers by the ending of Season 4, which is why I thought season 5 was superfluous.”

    JMS claimed to have a complete, 5-year outline for B5. Then Warners announced they’d cancel it at the end of year four, so he accelerated the storytelling so he could accomplish everything early. Then there was enough fan interest that they renewed it for season 5… but the planned story was over. If the last season feels superfluous, that’s why.

  51. Kathy says:


    I recall reading much about it online at the time.

    Some things feel rushed or improvised. Though to be fair, JMS suffered the loss of several cast members, like Michael O’Hare, who played Sinclair. he was supposed to be the protagonist, not John Sheridan.

    Also the Psi-Corps plant was supposed to be Lauren, but she was replaced after the pilot. And the all-powerful telepath would have been Talia Winters, not Lyta Alexander. There are lots of character and character story line switches.

  52. James Joyner says:

    @wr: @Kathy: I was introduced to B5 by Steven Taylor, my current co-blogger and then-colleague at Troy, towards the end of its run. I thought O’Hare was rather bad—overbroad like a stage actor who can’t rely on facial expressions rather than a television actor—and his replacement by Boxleitner improved the show. I literally just now learned about his mental illness and premature death.

  53. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: I suppose the Open Forum is as good a place as any but I can’t figure out why you repeatedly post this.

  54. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Nothing in B5, IMO, is as bad as the fifth season.

    Ok. It wasn’t awful bad, and there are a few good episodes tucked in. But overall, the show should have ended with season 4.

    BTW, I highly, highly recommend the Technomage Trilogy written after the show. there’s a Psi Corps Trilogy and a Centauri Trilogy as well. They’re ok, but nowhere near as good reading as the Technomage one.